Now we are back into “ordinary time”. It is a time for us to experience fatherhood as “ordinary”. To appreciate the profundity of the ordinary will give all of us time to appreciate the subtlety and nuance that we can just take for granted in our daily life. But, just as American society will not let this day pass without recognizing our fathers (grandfathers, great grandfathers, godfathers, adopted fathers), let us appreciate what our Father leaves us in His perfect worship and liturgy … subtle and nuanced!
I want to return to reflections on the Mass, what we call the liturgy of the Church … how we are called to worship God. I know previous reflection last year were “heady” … but to understand what we are doing when we come into our local parishes, what we do as individuals, and as a group, requires us to go beyond ourselves. Too often, humanity likes to think worship is self-motivated. We often want to think we need to “feel good” when we come to church.
This idea couldn’t be more misdirected. Our focus (our center, our feeling) is supposed to be God … beginning, middle and end. The “feel good” is our working and cooperating with God’s Will … this is not about us … it is supposed to be ALL about God.
The historical liturgy of Christendom is and always will be cosmic … beyond us … “touches timelessnessness” … without separation and without confusion, and only as such does it stand erect in its full grandeur. Christianity is uniquely new, but it does not spurn the religious quest of human history. Christianity takes up in itself all the prevailing preoccupations of the world’s religions, and in that way Christianity perfects the imperfect, temporal and manmade religious expression.
So, let us begin where God touches earth for the first time as it is recorded in the Old Testament moving to New. The fundamental form of the Christian Liturgy is found in the Old Testament. In the next few months let us look at the Fundamentals of our Faith and our Worship.
We began Ordinary Time after the Christmas Season. We remained in Ordinary Time until we started Lent. Now that the Easter Season is over and we have celebrated the High Feasts of Holy Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi Sunday, we go back into Ordinary Time.
The Mass vestment color is green, like the green of the grass coming back to new life. The green color reminds us that even though it is Ordinary Time, our faith and our love for God and neighbor should continue to grow. Advent/Lent and Christmas/Easter are the main seasons of the Liturgical Calendar. Ordinary Time is the rest of the time of the Liturgical Calendar. We will end Ordinary Time on November 25th with the Feast of Christ the King. Then we will start the Liturgical Calendar all over again with the First Sunday of Advent on December 2nd.
As we leave our Easter celebrations and return to the feral period of Ordinary Time, let us ask God to help our faith grow and to help our love to grow for Him and neighbor. Then we will have a strong faith and a deep love for God and neighbor!
“O Lord, hear my voice, for I have called to you, be my help.” (Cf. Psalm 27:7)
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. We often refer to today’s solemnity as Corpus Christi. These past few Sundays (Pentecost, Trinity and now Corpus Christi) call us each year to reflect on the very central mysteries of our Faith. We celebrate these mysteries, not just one Sunday each year, but every day of our lives.
Not only daily, but also hourly and minute-by-minute, we should be aware that the Holy Spirit of God is giving guidance and direction to our decisions and actions in daily life. I am sure that each of us prays on a daily basis, and I trust that prayer is regular and often. I trust we begin each meal with a blessing and thanksgiving, and we begin and end each day with prayer. As we pray, a beautiful element of our Catholic tradition is to begin and end our prayer with the Sign of the Cross. This primary symbol of our Faith is also a constant reminder that we have the Holy Trinity; God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, dwelling within us from the moment of our Baptism, when we first received the Sign of the Cross traced on our forehead as a gift from our parents and godparents. Today we remind ourselves of the centrality of the Eucharist. One of the “things” that makes us Roman Catholic is our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We do not believe the Eucharist to be a symbol; It is Real. Do you believe this?
All too often I meet Catholics, who do not believe this. I find that tragic. I have come to know and believe that Jesus is Real in the Eucharist. This is not a simple thing to learn. It is not simple like learning that 2 + 2 = 4. To understand the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Jesus is not just reading this sentence and believing. It requires an open mind, heart and soul to believe. It also requires time and patience (ideally daily…a simple visit to the church for 5-10 minutes) to sit in the presence of the Eucharist and to come to understand, trust and believe. Isn’t it interesting, we can go home and plop ourselves in front of the TV for hours and listen…without speaking. But, ask yourself…do you feel your real home to be the church…and plopping yourself before the tabernacle holding the Real Presence…would love to have you just listen.
Yes, it does require prayerful reflection and study of the Scriptures, especially the accounts of the institution of the Eucharist. If you truly study these passages, you will learn that the language used does not mean a symbol or to just remember an event from a couple thousand years ago. The language is clear that we are living the Eucharistic event in the present moment. It is clear that our celebration of the Eucharist every day at the Altar at Mass is intimately and mysteriously joined to the first Eucharist in the Upper Room in Jerusalem (the Last Supper) and is intimately and mysteriously joined to the moment at Calvary. Do you believe this? Do you understand this?
If not (or maybe it is similar to a great mystery movie — the difference…we are the characters in the movie…trying to figure out the clues and evidence in order to resolve the Who done It), please spend some time studying the Scripture and praying over its meaning. Also, please spend some alone time with Jesus in the Eucharist. Over time, I know you will come to enjoy the movie. Also, if you already believe this, study the Scripture and go to the Eucharist to renew and strengthen the gift of that belief in your life.
The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity is celebrated this week. This feast – as well as next week’s feast – are both Solemn Feasts (the high Holy Days of the Church). These are opportunities for us to celebrate, acknowledge, and accent some very important dimensions of this faith of ours. As we celebrate the life of the Trinity – God is three (tri) in one (une). The Christian God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is relational. How amazing and wonderfully mysterious at the same time! We have been hearing in the readings for the past few weeks leading up to Pentecost, of the Holy Spirit, which would be sent by Jesus to be our Advocate. This Holy Spirit would guide us into all Truth – therefore referred to as the Spirit of truth. This Spirit of truth, Who will come to teach us even more about God, leads us into a deeper relationship with the Father through Jesus.
We, who are created by the Father, led by the Son and one in the Spirit are invited to mirror the relationship of the Trinity in our relations with each other. The Sacrament of Baptism makes this mysterious relationship possible, we are reconnected to the Father from Whom we were separated in original sin. Baptism, is the gift of faith, that reconnects us to the Father and helps us to have access to the life giving relationship that ultimately brings us back to Heaven. In the meantime, during our life lived in faith, we strive to mirror that great and mysterious relationships of the Divine Persons of the Trinity. Yep…very deep stuff…but what I love about God – He is so simple of a Being – our complex mind has a problem understanding. But, like those who are in deep love. Just being in the presence of the beloved is all a lover needs to experience / understand.
A second reflection for this week – we celebrate Memorial Day. Please take time this weekend to truly pray for the repose of all the men and women who have died in service of our nation and the gift of Freedom. This is the real meaning of this holiday – a day to remember and give thanks for those who have died for us. We are thankful and ask God’s blessing upon those who currently serve our nation in the various branches of military service. God bless all of our current service men and women, our veterans and those who have given their lives in the service and protection of our own.
It is wonderful for families and friends to gather and share a barbeque or other parties this weekend, but please remember why we get a “day off” – because someone else gave their life for our freedom and defense. Please consider coming to Mass on Memorial Day, or visit loved ones who have served our country and are still with us, and thank them for all they did. Consider visiting the cemetery or joining in one of the many tributes offered in different locations for those who we remember and honor on Memorial Day. May our bravest who have given their lives since 1776 to present rest in peace…Amen.
As a Church we celebrate Pentecost Sunday and the end of the Easter Season. I hope and pray that we all reflect upon the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Do you see that the Holy Spirit is the presence of God in our lives? Often we chalk things up to “coincidence” or an odd chance happening.
I would like to suggest that these are not coincidences, but are moments of the Holy Spirit guiding and directing our lives. The Holy Spirit brings individuals into our lives at moments of need, and graces us with moments when we know without doubt or question that God is real. Similarly, the Holy Spirit gifts us with humility, courage and conviction to live the truth of God in moments when we confront opposition based in secular values. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that is the instrument of God’s grace communicated in the sacraments.
We are Baptized in the Holy Spirit, and receive the fullness of the Spirit in Confirmation.
We call upon the Holy Spirit to consecrate bread and wine at Mass. The Holy Spirit is called upon in the celebration of all of the sacraments. Do you realize the power of the Holy Spirit?
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “permanent dispositions that make us docile to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The traditional list of seven gifts of the Spirit is derived from Isaiah 11:1- 3: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord.” (cf. Paragraph 1830). These gifts, which we have all received at Baptism and renewed at Confirmation, are within us. Do we use these gifts?
I have received many gifts in my lifetime that I have not used. Sometimes I have received gifts that were not my taste, too complicated to use easily and/or not needed at the time. I have often shelved these gifts in the closet, attic or basement. I have never thrown a gift away. Similarly, after time has passed, I have often sought out the gift I remember once receiving and/or I find it when cleaning and, in rediscovering it, have begun to use it. Do we treat the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the same way? Are there gifts of the Holy Spirit that we have shelved or found too complicated to try to live in a secular and relativistic culture? This Pentecost, can we rediscover these gifts…go to the attic of our mind and/or basement of our heart and soul…and search to find and use these seven gifts?
I suggest that all of the social issues, and what we now term as “political” issues to be solved, really can be solved by simply living the Word of God and living the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Either we live in the Spirit’s wisdom, understanding and knowledge (universal truth); or, we live in relativism (no universal truth; each determining their own morality). Either we live in “fear of the Lord” or not. To “fear the Lord” means that we live in reverence, honor, awe and obedience to God’s Word.
If you are like I am, you fear the news. By “fear the news” I do not mean to live in reverence, honor, awe and obedience of the media; I mean fear what tragedy has happened next. This Pentecost Sunday we must question ourselves if we really live in the Holy Spirit or in Secularism and Relativism? Our culture is one of secularism and relativism and we see the chaos it has created with increased violence, lack of tolerance for other individuals and artificial self-promotion rather than genuine self-esteem rooted in being a son or daughter of Christ.
As a people of faith, are we ready to claim again the gifts of the Spirit that are permanent dispositions, pull them off the shelves and use them courageously to restore the Gospel of Life and eliminate the Culture of Death?
We wish a happy and blessed day to all of our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers and those women in our lives who have been like a mother to us. We thank you and ask God to bless you for all that you do and all that you are to us. We especially remember in prayer and thought today all of our mothers who have gone before us and join us spiritually at the Eucharistic table in Heaven. Thank you for being with us today!
Even though our society sets aside only one day a year to highlight and honor you, -our mothers – every day we hold you in our hearts, minds, souls, consciences and prayers. We thank you, and may God bless you this day and always!
This is also a great day to mention our love, affection and need for our common mother, our Blessed Mother Mary. In a spiritual way, it is Mary who is mother and intercessor for us all. Mary was given to us as our Mother from Jesus as He hung upon the Cross and told the disciple “Whom He loved” to take Mary as his mother. We are that beloved disciple … and, at our baptism, Mary was given to all of us as our mother.
We honor Mary during this month of May and we honor her especially today as Mother of Jesus and our Mother as well. I pray that you rely on Mary on a daily basis as you would turn to and rely upon your own personal mother on earth. This Mother’s Day, please allow Mary to love you with a Mother’s love.
Similarly, I pray that you see our Church as “Mother Church.” In our Catholic Faith we often refer to our Church as “Holy Mother Church” because we see the Church as nurturing us in a life of faith and wholeness. Please reflect upon, and pray for the grace to see our Church as a loving Mother. Our Church as “Mother” has some challenging rules to follow; rules that any mother would give to her child. Often we see these rules as harsh, difficult or not realistic in the contemporary world; but, these rules are a guide for a full, complete and joy-filled life. Holy Mother Church, like a good mother, wants only what is best for her children … and what is best often takes hard work, discipline and sacrifice.
May God bless you, Mary, our Mother, watch over you on this special day.
This is also a great moment for all of us to reflect on our own view of Confirmation as a Sacrament. Some parents and grandparents may view Confirmation as the “end,” …meaning… “I’ve done my job” or “I am finished helping my teen focus on their faith.” Unfortunately, some parents tell their teenagers to just get Confirmed and that will be enough and after Confirmation they can decide if they will pursue the life of Faith on their own.
This is really a flawed understanding. Confirmation is the “end of the beginning” and the teen’s decision to accept the responsibility to live their life of faith within the Catholic Church. Our Confirmation Candidates this coming year will profess their faith as part of the Rite of Confirmation. They are making the decision to live the Catholic Faith, profess the Catholic Faith and then be Confirmed in the Catholic Faith. It is not the other way around…meaning…we are not Confirmed first and then decide later if we believe and wish to live as a Catholic. That is backwards. This is a great point of reflection for all of us as adults. It is our role to share and live our Faith and so inspire the next generations to do the same. It is our duty to allow our youth to freely choose to be Confirmed within the Church.
These reflections go along perfectly with our Gospels during the Season of Easter. We have been hearing from the Gospel of John. This Gospel speaks clearly of the decision to follow or not to follow. John is clear that we have a choice to either follow Jesus or not. We have that freedom. John is also clear that there is not a third option. We hear clearly that Jesus is The Good Shepherd. He is The gate for the sheep. He is The way, The truth and The life. Jesus is The vine and we are the branches.
This Sunday we hear from John that, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This statement again is clear and direct and does not offer a third option for partial credit. The Gospel goes to the point to acknowledge that other options exist in the world. In the next couple of weeks, the Gospels will remind us that the Father will “give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him.” Ultimately we live this definite decision by, as St. Peter states in today’s second reading, sanctifying Christ as Lord in your heart.
This Sunday we reflect on the meaning of our decision to follow Christ. Do you see it as “the definite” or do you try to forge a third path blending the secular world with the values of the Gospel, thus creating a blend of values? Are you able to see Jesus as The only path to follow and do so by sanctifying Him in your heart? Do you find it hard to follow all of Jesus’ teachings each and every moment of the day, every day of the week? Thankfully, for most, if not all of us, the answer is “yes” – it is difficult to do. Even if it is difficult, are we still focused on honestly striving for it, or have you accepted a third path that you feel is good enough?